Chicken Marsala a la Cooking Light

One thing I love about Cooking Light magazine is they offer so many recipes of classic, fattening dishes in new, lighter, and healthier recipes. One great example of this is their Chicken Piccata recipe which is still a favorite of mine. But today, we are talking about Chicken Marsala. This recipe calls for some of the butter to be refined. I am not sure if that is in part to save some calories or if its a traditional way of preparing Marsala, so if you skip this step, please do at your own risk.

  • 4 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • cooking spray
  • 1 8oz. package of sliced mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped shallots
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 tsp. salt, divided
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper, divided
  • 3 Tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup fat free, less sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 dry Marsala wine
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas
  • 2 Tbsp. half and half
  • 4 cups of hot, cooked fettuccine

Place 3 Tbsp. butter in a glass bowl and microwave for 45 seconds or until melted. Let stand for 1 minute. Skim foam from surface, discard. Pour melted butter through a fine sieve over a small bowl, discard milk solids. Set refined butter aside.

Heat a large non stick skillet over medium-high heat and coat with cooking spray. Add mushrooms, garlic and shallots and cook until moisture evaporates, about 3 minutes. Remove mushroom mixture from pan, set aside.

Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet until 1/4 inch thickness. Sprinkle both sides of each breast with 1/8 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish and lightly dredge chicken breasts in flour.

Add clarified butter to pan over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook 3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove chicken from pan.

Return mushroom mixture to pan; add broth and Marsala, scraping pan to loosen brown bits. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes or until liquid is reduced down to about 1 cup.

Add peas; cook for 1 minute.

Add remaining butter, half and half, remaining salt and pepper and stir until butter is melted. Return chicken to pan and cook until thoroughly heated through. Serve chicken and sauce over pasta.

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Gourmet Mac and Cheese. Need I Say More?

My husband grew up near Seattle and when we got engaged his dear aunt threw me a bridal shower. I got this awesome cookbook as a gift and one of the first dishes I learned to make after getting married is the mac and cheese from this book. It’s so good, lots of warm cheese, a crispy bread crumby top. Need I say more? But this mac and cheese is way more than your average cheddar and elbow noodle, from the spiral pasta, salty prosciutto and variety of cheeses, especially the distinct bite of the Gorgonzola, its easy to see why this is the best mac and cheese ever.

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for dish
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated fontina cheese
  • 3/4 cup Gorgonzola or other blue cheese
  • 3 ounces prosciutto, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 12 ounces gemelli or other spiral pasta
  • 1/2 bread crumbs, fresh or dried will do
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped, fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 375. Butter a 13×9 baking dish. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and saute until tender and aromatic, about 5 minutes. While the butter is still bubbling, add flour and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute.

Slowly whisk in milk and continue cooking, stirring constantly until the mixture bubbles and turns thick, about 3-5 minutes. Take pan from heat and add 3/4 cup Parmesan, Gruyere, fontina, and Gorgonzola, whisking until cheese is melted into sauce. Stir in prosciutto, cayenne, salt and pepper, set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, add pasta and cook for 5-7 minutes. Pasta should remain uncooked in center.  Stain, rinse with cool water to stop cooking and drain well. Stir pasta in with the cheese sauce and pour into prepared dish.

Stir together bread crumbs, parsley, and 1/4 cup Parmesan and sprinkle mixture over top of pasta.

Bake until pasta is heated through and browned on top, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

When in Rome, Have the Gnocchi

I’ve always love these tasty little potato dumplings, but it was on my honeymoon that the love affair began. I must have tried 15 different restaurant’s gnocchi and never once did I get sick of it. Potatoes and pasta. Or is is pasta and potatoes? One thing is for sure, its a carb lover’s dream. And the variety! You can do meat sauce, pesto, alfredo, whatever you like!

I was so excited, yet very intimidated when I found this recipe, once again thanks to my subscription to Cooking Light. Gnocchi just seems like the thing you mess up if you don’t know what you are doing, and so there was a frozen pizza for back up, just in case. But in the end, my husband was impressed, I was in heaven and this recipe made it into the almost weekly rotation and the whole process was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be.

Here its with a lemon thyme sauce. According to me, you can’t have too much citrus and you can never have too many shallots, that is why this sauce is the best. But try something different if want, any sauce will do. Gnocchi is very inexpensive to make and and can be a great Sunday afternoon activity for the whole family.

For the Gnocchi:

  • 2  (10-ounce) baking potatoes
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tbs all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4  tsp  kosher salt, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 1  gallon water

For the Lemon Thyme Sauce:

  • 4  tsp  butter
  • 4  tsp  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2  cup  finely chopped shallots
  • 1  tbsp  grated lemon rind
  • 2  tsp  chopped fresh thyme
  • 2  tsp  fresh lemon juice
  • Dash of kosher salt
  • 2  tbsp  shaved fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4  tsp  freshly ground black pepper

First, wash poke and bake the potatoes at 400 for 1 hour. Allow them to cool enough to handle and then peel them and pass them through a potato ricer. Lightly spoon flour into a measuring cup. Add flour and 3/4 tsp. salt and stir to form dough.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Divide dough into four balls, cover the dough you are not working with to keep it from drying out.

Roll a 20 inch rope out of the ball.

Cut rope into 20, 1 inch pieces.

Roll each piece into a ball.

Using a lightly floured fork, use your thumb to roll each piece down the tines of the fork.

Gnocchi should have ridges on one side and an indentation from your thumb on the other. Repeat process with remaining 3 balls of dough.

Place gnocchi on a baking sheet coated in cooking spray, cover and set aside.

In a Dutch oven, bring 1 gallon (16 cups) of water and 1 tsp. kosher salt to a boil. Cook half the gnocchi at a time for about 1 and half minutes. Gnocchi will float when it is cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon and strain. Remember to only cook the half of it at a time or the water will cool down too much and the gnocchi won’t cook properly.

While the water is heating you can start the sauce. Heat butter and oil in a pan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook for 10 minutes or until tender, do not brown.

Stir in lemon rind, thyme, juice and a dash of salt. Combine with gnocchi, cheese and pepper in a large bowl and gently toss to coat.

Pasta Salad

Pasta salads always look so darn good but more often than not, they are bland and simply don’t taste nearly as great as they look. One reason is the dressing. If you choose the wrong dressing it sinks to the bottom of the bowl leaving the pasta dry and boring. Other dressings can be completely absorbed by the pasta, sometimes this is good but not always. The best way to avoid these problems is to choose a creamy dressing that will coat the pasta and retain flavor.  Its also a good idea to avoid balsamic vinegar, which tastes great but can turn the pasta brown and unappealing. The dressing recipe I posted here works perfectly for pasta salads. I have also tried this one but found the dijon to be overpowering, but if you really like mustard you’ll probably like it.

You can put whatever you want in a pasta salad. Today, I put salt, pepper, green onions, carrots, peas, olives, lemon zest, basil and Parmesan cheese and this dressing in my salad.

Penne Pasta with Escarole

Timing is everything when cooking. In order to have all your dishes hot and ready at the same time you have to plan and execute perfectly. One of the most basic keys to making this a success is having all of your ingredients prepared before you do any cooking. This may sound ridiculously obvious but it took me about 2 years of cooking on a semi-regular basis before I finally learned it is a must. Pull everything out on the counter. Chop what needs to be chopped. Peel what needs to be peeled. Prepare, prepare, prepare. When watching a cooking show I always thought “See! look how easy it is when everything is just ready for you! If it was always prepared like that I could cook, too.” And there was my great ‘Aha’ moment. No more were the days of rushing to finish chopping the onion to add it to the dish before it cooks too long and I end up with burnt bell pepper and raw onion… Much less stressful and much more successful.

This recipe I found on ivillage. I think I mentioned it before, I am a follower, not a leader. At least not yet, just about every time I try to create my own recipe its a big yucky flop. So from here on out unless I specify, assume that I found the recipe somewhere else. Believe me, if and when I invent something I feel good enough about to share here I will let you know it was my creation.

  • 1 lb. penne pasta
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 bunch escarole, rinsed, stemmed and torn into bite size pieces
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. While that is working, heat olive oil in a large saute pan or dutch oven over medium heat. Cook the onions and bell pepper, salt and pepper for 4 minutes until tender.

Cook penne for about 11 minutes or until tender, drain and set aside. Meanwhile, add sausage and cook for 6-8 minutes until browned, breaking pieces up with a wooden spoon.

Add the garlic and escarole and cook for 5 more minutes.

Transfer mixture into a large bowl, add penne, red pepper flakes, and Parmesan, toss to combine and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Serve immediately.

I wish my sausage had been browned more but with two screaming children at my feet its about as best I could do at the moment. I was worried the veggies would over cook if I let it go longer, so it is just a little less beautiful than it could have been. But believe me, it tasted wonderful!